Grand Themes Narrow Constituency

In the beginning, there was young-earth creationism. Even now, long after evolution has conquered the scientific world, scientific creationism remains popular, periodically surfacing to complicate the lives of science educators. This old-time creationism, however, has major shortcomings. Its religious motives are too obvious, its scientific credentials next to nonexistent. There is an aura of crankishness about claiming that special creation is not only scientific but also better than what...

Targetless Evolutionary Algorithms

While Dembski devotes much attention to Dawkins's weasel algorithm, he ignores another procedure designed by Dawkins the biomorphs algorithm (BA). The BA differs from the weasel algorithm in that it has no target and is designed to illustrate a different aspect of evolution. The BA demonstrates how evolution, starting with a very simple progenitor, can generate unlimited complexity without a preselected target. Since its purpose is different, the features of evolution retained in this model are...

Self Organization and the Origin of Complexity

Even a casual examination of nature reveals the existence of complex, organized states of matter. Organization is found on all scales for example, in the elaborate spiral shapes of galaxies in space and hurricanes on earth, in organisms, in snowflakes, and in the molecules that participate in many important chemical reactions. Ordered, organized, complex states of matter abound in the world around us. How are we to explain this complexity Our current best account of these types of phenomena is...

Fossils Feathers and Flight

We can use comparative anatomy to investigate the morphology of ancestors even when the ancestors are not preserved in the fossil record. Paleontologists employ a technique called phylogenetic bracketing (Witmer 1995, Bryant and Russell 1992). Despite its fancy name, the idea of phylogenetic bracketing is relatively simple. At its core, it presumes that any features shared by two or more related animals were also present in their last common ancestor. This hypothesis may be rejected if evidence...

Fine Tuning the Cosmological Constant

Let me discuss an example of supposed fine tuning that arises out of cosmology. This is the apparent fine tuning of Albert Einstein's cosmological constant within 120 orders of magnitude, without which life would be impossible. This will require some preliminary explanation. When Einstein first wrote down his equations of general relativity in 1915, he saw that they allowed for the possibility of gravitational energy stored in the curvature of empty space-time. This vacuum curvature is...

Benard Cell Convection

Benard Cells

Consider a thin layer of water sandwiched between two horizontal glass plates. Suppose the system is at room temperature and in thermal equilibrium with its surroundings. One region of water looks pretty much the same as any other. If the water is now warmed from below so that energy is allowed to flow through the system and back into the environment above, the system will become self-organized above a certain critical temperature. If you look down at the system, you will see a structured,...

The Displacement Problem

Dembski (2002a) asserts that the displacement problem is, in fact, the core of his thesis. At a close inspection, however, it becomes clear that the displacement problem is irrelevant to real-life situations. Recall that he defines it as the problem of finding a given target. . . displaced to the new problem of finding the information j capable of locating that target. Our original problem was finding a certain target within phase space. Our new problem is finding a certain j within the...

Its All or Nothing

If the living world has not arisen from common ancestors by means of an evolutionary process, then the fundamental unity of living things is a hoax and their diversity, a joke. I wrote this chapter for everyone who believes that it is possible to accept something less than full common descent of all life. In my view, anything less than full common descent leads to both an arbitrary fragmentation of the tree of life and a logically inconsistent theory of descent and also conflicts with the...

Exposing Behes Mousetrap and Dembskis Arrow

Though analogy is often misleading, it is often the least misleading thing we have. m uch of what we know or think we know, it seems to me, is based on analogy. When we describe a gas as a collection of colliding billiard balls, our model is based on an analogy. When we think of a gene as fighting for its survival against other genes, our model is based on an analogy. When we describe a photon as a wave or a particle, however, our analogy breaks down, because the photon has both wavelike and...

The Biochemical Evidence for Evolution

Behe is perhaps best known as the author of Darwin's Black Box 1996 . But I know Mike Behe as a biochemist and a scientific colleague we are both interested in DNA structures. I first heard of Behe more than 20 years ago, when I was a graduate student in a biophysical chemistry group and Behe had co-authored a paper about a form of DNA called Z-DNA Behe and Felsenfeld 1981 . The paper was famous, to some of us, because it meant Z-DNA might be more likely to occur within living...